|PIT||0||1||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|CAR||2||1||1||(0 - 0)||4|
He may not have registered a point, but Cory Stillman certainly had the impact that the Hurricanes were hoping for in his return to the top line.
Just a day after being re-acquired in a trade with Florida, Stillman was parked in front of the net for the Canes’ first three goals in their win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. That was all the offense that they would need, as they were able to hold on for a 4-1 victory to conclude their four-game home stand despite losing Eric Staal to an upper-body injury late in the second period.
“We had some guys score some goals with some traffic,” said Stillman. “They’re little things in the game, but it was fun to get back in there and get in the battle. If you go there, eventually one will hit you and go in the net, and if not, you cause traffic and someone else can score.”
“He has a good sense about when to get (to the net) and the timing of it and tying people up,” said coach Paul Maurice. “He’s such an intelligent player and made some great plays with the puck, just simple things.”
Just 1:44 into the game, Stillman kept a Pittsburgh defender and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury busy when defenseman Jay Harrison, he of three career goals entering the game, scored his second in as many contests with a perfectly-placed wrist shot that hit the upper corner.
“They’re going to start putting a guy on him,” Maurice said jokingly of Harrison. “If he doesn’t score the next game it’s because he’s been covered.”
Later in the period, Stillman would provide the screen for Joe Corvo’s blast from the point that ended Carolina’s five-game, 0-19 drought on the power play. Then, in the second period, he would cause confusion in the crease, allowing Staal to find a wide-open Erik Cole crashing the net from the left wing to chase Fleury from the game.
“He’s such a smart, gifted player that has the knack of knowing where to be at the right times,” said Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.
As big as the win was for the Canes, who needed it to keep up with some unfavorable results around the league concerning their playoff position, postgame thoughts turned immediately to Staal, who leads the team in scoring with 59 points – 12 more than rookie Jeff Skinner.
With just 1:09 remaining in the second period, Staal came into the slot area with speed and caught a rebound, dragging the puck to find an opening in goalie Brent Johnson. As he took the shot, which Johnson blocked, he appeared to be hit in the head by defenseman Matt Niskanen. Staal stayed down on the ice for a moment before leaving for the locker room and did not return for the third period.
After the game, Maurice said that Staal would not accompany the team on their trip to Montreal to face the Canadiens on Saturday night, but that he was hopeful he could play after that.
“You never want to see any player go on the ice, let alone your captain,” said Ward, who finished with 33 saves. “As tough as it is to see him go down, we knew that we wanted to pick up our game and win the game for him, because I know how much he wants to win and how much he wants to direct this team to this team to the playoffs. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that he’s healthy.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” said Cole. “He’s a tough kid and it’s probably good that we gave him the rest of the night to rest."
“You can’t tell from the camera angles,” he said. “We’ll let the league look at that.”
Despite the Canes taking an early lead and never relinquishing it, there were some tense moments at times. Pittsburgh came out strong in the second period and began to take a significant advantage in shots, prompting Maurice to take his timeout near the halfway mark.
However, Cole’s goal would help swing the momentum just minutes later. Defenseman Derek Joslin, playing his second game as a Hurricane following last week’s trade from San Jose, made a great play to keep the puck in the zone before dishing to Staal. It was one of a career-high 2 assists for Joslin, who finished the game with a +3 plus/minus rating.
“I thought he played very, very well tonight, and it’s not the points,” said Maurice of his new 23-year-old defenseman. “It’s the gap closure, the decisions he made with the puck and his physical strength. I was very encouraged by what we saw.”
The Penguins’ Pascal Dupuis brought the visitors within two near the end of the second period after taking a rebound from a sharp-angle Mike Rupp shot. However, that was as close as they would come to equalizing, as the Canes improved their record when leading after two periods to 20-0-0, getting insurance in the form of Jussi Jokinen’s finish on a three-on-one with Joslin and Brandon Sutter.
“It was important with Staal missing the third to be able to hold the lead and then extend it,” said Maurice. “It’s an important night when everybody around you wins their games as well. It’s a critical game for us.”
NOTES: Cole, playing his 600th NHL game, has 14 points in his last 14 games. He leads all Hurricanes in scoring for the month of February with 11 points … Troy Bodie played his 100th NHL game … Corvo played his 200th game with the Hurricanes … Joni Pitkanen’s assist on Corvo’s goal was his 200th in the NHL … Ward made his 21st consecutive start in goal … The game marked the third time two defenseman have scored in the same contest for Carolina this season … Defenseman Jamie McBain has assists in three straight games … Prior to scoring in his last two games, Harrison was pointless in his previous 20.
|Jay Harrison (3) ASST: Erik Cole (21), Jamie McBain (19)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Joe Corvo (10) ASST: Joni Pitkanen (25), Jussi Jokinen (28)|
2 - 0 CAR
|Erik Cole (18) ASST: Eric Staal (32), Derek Joslin (4)|
3 - 0 CAR
|Pascal Dupuis (11) ASST: Mike Rupp (7), Zbynek Michalek (11)|
3 - 1 CAR
|Jussi Jokinen (15) ASST: Brandon Sutter (10), Derek Joslin (5)|
4 - 1 CAR
|Mike Rupp Roughing against Jeff Skinner|
|Matt Cooke Cross checking against Derek Joslin|
|Alex Kovalev Interference against Jamie McBain|
|Tuomo Ruutu Tripping against James Neal|
|Jamie McBain Interference against Chris Conner|
|Jay Harrison Slashing against Matt Cooke|
|Alex Kovalev Holding the stick against Jussi Jokinen|
|SA: 10||TOI: 29:00|
|Saves: 9||EV: 8 - 9|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .900||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 11||TOI: 30:59|
|Saves: 8||EV: 3 - 5|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 6|
|SV%: .727||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 34||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 33||EV: 25 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 7|
|SV%: .971||SH: 1 - 1|